How refreshing to watch Ashleigh Barty’s demeanour and sportsmanship on display at this year’s Wimbledon Tennis Championship. Ash’s speech commending her opponent, thanking her team and the crowd, exuded down to earthiness, respect and modesty. Her parents left her coaching to the professionals, ‘all we worried about was trying to raise a respectful young lady’. They have raised a long-awaited model sporting champion.
The value of the model in Christian discipleship cannot be overestimated, God’s purpose is to make his people more and more like the model of his Son ( Romans 8:28-29) and he is working in all things, every day, to do it.
In Philippians Paul talks of the mind or the attitude, being the determining factor in the way we live. Having the model mind will determine the model lifestyle. In Philippians 3:13, Paul says he is a man of a single mind, ‘one thing’. His mind is on the future, on waiting for his Saviour and his heavenly inheritance. He urges the believers to recognise single mindedness as the attitude of maturity (3:14) and to join him, as a fellow imitator of Christ (3:17) for the mind of Christ was a single mind, to do the Father’s will, he said, was his bread and butter (John 4:34). The mind of Christ is emphasised throughout Philippians, and is particularly seen the beautiful summary in 2:5-11.
For every model there is an anti-model. When the Creator speaks so does the serpent, when wisdom shouts, so does folly, when the Spirit influences, the flesh is always nearby. The anti-models at Philippi were within the church, those seeking the benefits of the cross yet living as its enemies. The purpose of the cross is to keep us from living for self (2 Cor.5:15), but while these people profess faith in the cross they live to fulfil their bodily desires (Phil.3:19), they glory in shameful things and all this because their minds are ‘set on earthly things’. The mind determines the lifestyle.
By contrast the mature Christian mind will be single-mindedly focused on heaven, where we are citizens (3:20) and our living will be in the light of the immanent return of our Saviour from there (3:21). The enemy of the mature single mind is double mindedness, being blown around by the latest fad, oscillating between faith and doubt, described by both Paul and James as ‘waves carried about by the wind’ ( Eph 4:14; Jas 1:6).
The other enemy of the single mind is the value-inverting small mind. The Pharisees in Matthew 23:23 in their small mindedness, tithed their spices whilst thoroughly neglecting the big issues of ‘justice, mercy and faithfulness’. But the enemy at Philippi was earthly mindedness, a basic, ‘me first’ self-centredness, which comes naturally to us, leading to an entitled, indulgent lifestyle.
All these attitudes will be on display in local congregations, the question is which best represents yours, the single, the double, the small, the earth bound? Bishop Ryle in his sermon on Zeal says: ‘The zealous man in religion is preeminently a man of one thing…he only sees one thing, he cares for one thing, he lives for one thing, he is swallowed up in one thing; and that one thing is to please God…and to advance God’s glory’. That is the model as we are conformed to the image of the man of zeal, ‘my meat is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work’.
O God, keep me from being blown around by every new fad in the church and the world. Please continue to turn my eyes upon Jesus and give me his single-minded focus!